Facebook Page
Platte Valley Trolly, Pikes Peak Trolley Museum, Alamosa

Adventurers in the Rockies

Chapter Sixteen

Scottsbluff, Platte Valley Trolley, Pikes Peak Historical Trolley Museum,

 Walsenburg and Alamosa

July 16, 2016



Robin Bowers

Text and Photos by Author

The author retains all rights. No reproductions are allowed without the author's consent.

Comments are appreciated


  This morning started just before the crack of dawn. After a quick bite, we loaded the car, closed all the windows and took the trash with us. It was a twenty minute drive from the bunkhouse to NE Rt 71.  The three of us enjoyed our two night stay here at the ranch and we voted to return again.


We took Rt 71 south to Scottsbluff where we had breakfast at MacDonald's inside the Walmart. The local old men were having their morning coffee in the restaurant. While sitting there, they all had in hand a fly swatter and that left a lasting memory. This place had more flies than a barnyard manure pile. The Happy Meal should come with a fly swatter. Needless to say we ate and made a fast exit. 


In the fertile valley of the North Platte River, Scottsbluff is the major trading center for western Nebraska and eastern Wyoming. The town is on an especially scenic section of US 26 - the Western Trails Scenic and Historic Byway - which parallels the North Platte River and the Oregon and Mormon trails.


After breakfast we crossed the BNSF tracks and went to investigate.


The CB&Q Scottsbluff station and from there we made another stop in town.


Union Pacific 2-8-0 423 on display in Scottsbluff. After here we made another stop down the road.





Five miles southwest of Scottsbluff via SRs 71 and 92W, the 3,003-acre Scotts Bluff National Monument encompasses the escarpment that rises 800 feet above the North Platte River, or 4,659 feet above sea level.


The bluffs, named for trapper Hiram Scott, who reputedly died in the vicinity around 1828, were a prominent landmark on the Oregon and California trails. Pioneers abandoned the riverbank and cut through Mitchell Pass to avoid the rough terrain. Vestiges of the trail can still be seen.

An extension of the Wildcat Range, the wind sculpted bluffs are composer of Arikaree sandstone, siltstone and volcanic ash. It is the hard caprock that has prevented erosion from leveling the bluff to the height of the surrounding plain.





We took NE 71 turning in CO 71 to CO 14 to CO 52 to Fort Morgan where we showed Chris P. the Great Western steam engine on display.



My first experience in agricultural artwork. Tricolor strips cover the fields. Great views.


We had just entered Colorado, where I saw these wind turbines.



This is Chris G. and I second visit to Fort Morgan.  We were here on July 7, 2016, Chapter Seven.


 Riverside Park Power Plant,  #2176, 0-4-0T built 1930, standard gauge.


Art work next to power plant.

While here Elizabeth A. called saying she had landed safely at Denver Airport and would meet us at Denver Union Station via the airport train.




Denver skyline.


Home of the Colorado Rockies, major league baseball team. The ballpark was built to fit in with the historic downtown area and uses the Rocky Mountain scenery as a backdrop.


Where we pickup Elizabeth after her train ride from the airport and drove to our next stop, the REI Store, parked underground and walked to the trolley.

The Platte Valley Trolley

    The Platte Valley Trolley is an heritage streetcar line in Denver, Colorado, operated by the Denver Tramway Heritage Society. It began service on July 4, 1989.

Route and operation

    The trolley line originates in Confluence Park, the historic location where the city of Denver was founded, at the confluence of the South Platte River and Cherry Creek River. The trolley is located at approximately 1400 Platte Street, Denver, CO, 80202, behind REI's flagship store in the renovated Denver Tramway building. Visitors can reach the trolley from Platte Street or from 15th Street in downtown Denver.

    In 2015, the operating season started on Friday, May 22. The trolley operates on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays, through Labor Day (September 7), with the first run leaving Confluence Park at 11:30 AM and the last run of the day leaving at 4:30 PM. In addition, the trolley will operate on holidays (Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day), and at special events, including Children's Museum of Denver First Tuesdays, the South Platte River Festival, Denver Broncos home games, and the annual Rocky Mountain Showdown between Colorado State University and the University of Colorado.

    Tickets are priced at $5 for adults and $2 for children, and may be purchased from the trolley motorman or conductor (transportation) at any of the trolley's stops (REI/Confluence Park, Downtown Aquarium, or Children's Museum of Denver).

    The line runs south (upriver) on the west side of the Platte River to Lakewood Gulch. Prior to 2007, the line continued west along Lakewood Gulch (approximately West 13th Avenue) and ran on the old interurban short line tracks of the Denver and Intermountain Railroad to Sheridan Boulevard. The line currently stops near where RTD built their new west corridor of the FasTracks light rail project, which opened on April 26, 2013. Future plans for the trolley include expansion into the planned redevelopment of Lower Colfax. On April 22, 2013, the Denver City Council approved the Sun Valley Neighborhood Decatur-Federal Station Area Plan; as part of the redevelopment of Lower Colfax, the Platte Valley Trolley will be extended all the way to the Decatur-Federal Light Rail Station.

    The line passes a number of historic and tourist attractions, including the Children's Museum, the Downtown Aquarium, Sports Authority Field at Mile High (home of the Denver Broncos) and Elitch Gardens, and views of the Denver skyline are visible all through the 25-minute narrated historical tour.

    The Platte Valley Trolley recalls the open car streetcars of an earlier era in Denver, which at one point in the history of Denver was the primary means of transportation throughout the city. In circa 1920, there were a group of six "Seeing Denver" streetcars that traversed the rails. A number of buildings in Denver, though currently re-purposed, were once key structures in the trolley system, and many retain their original signage. Today, in addition to regular operations, the Platte Valley Trolley is available for charters and special tours. More information can be found at the Platte Valley Trolley website.

Rolling stock

    The Platte Valley Trolley operates a 1986 replica of a 1903 Brill open streetcar. The frame and steel components of the car used in the construction are from a 1924 Melbourne, Australia streetcar. The car was made by the Gomaco Trolley Company in Ida Grove, Iowa. An on-board Cummins 6BT diesel electric generator provides the 600 volts d.c. for the four Metropolitan-Vickers traction motors and other accessories.


Elizabeth walking along the of South Platte River Trail.


Elitch Gardens Amusement Park.


Our trolley ride is approaching.






  Aboard our trolley. Our trip today will last close to 30 minutes and include stops at Downtown Aquarium, Children's Museum and our turnaround point at Broncos Bridge across from Sports Authority Field.


Twister II with Chris G. in silhouette.


Sports Authority Field at Mile High Stadium.


Home of Denver Broncos.


Denver skyline.


Departing shot of our trolley. We four returned to Chris G.'s car and drove south on I-25 to Colorado Springs.



Pikes Pike el 14,110.


Pikes Peak Historical

Street Railway Foundation

dba Colorado Springs & Interurban Railway

    We arrived at the Colorado Springs & Interurban Railway headquarters in the old Rock Island roundhouse in Colorado Springs and parked. It was Elizabeth's and my first time to this unique museum.

Colorado Springs & Interurban Railway

    The Colorado Springs and Interurban Railway (CS & IRR, CS&IR) was an electric trolley system in the Colorado Springs, Colorado that operated from 1902 to 1932. The company was formed when Winfield Scott Stratton purchased Colorado Springs Rapid Transit Railway in 1901 and consolidated it in 1902 with the Colorado Springs & Suburban Railway Company. It operated in Colorado Springs, its suburbs, and Manitou Springs. One of the street cars from Stratton's first order is listed on the Colorado State Register of Historic Properties.


    The Colorado Springs and Manitou Street Railway began horsecar trolley service in 1887. It ran between the Colorado Springs business district and Colorado College. The following year the route extended north and west with a total of ten horse-drawn trolleys. The Colorado Springs Rapid Transit Railway, chartered in 1890, bought the system and established the first electric trolley line to Manitou Springs in October 1890, as they transitioned from horse-drawn to electric trolleys. In 1898, trolleys ran west to Colorado City, east to Knob Hill, to Cheyenne Park, and connected with the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Passenger Depot. With the additional destinations, there were 44 electric trolleys in 1900.

Interurban Railway Company

    The Colorado Springs & Interurban Railway Company was created after Winfield Scott Stratton bought the Colorado Springs Rapid Transit Railway in 1901 and consolidated it with the Colorado Springs & Suburban Railway Company in September 1902. Service ran to a trolley park beyond Boulevard Park in 1903. The north/south main line provided service from a loop at the town of Roswell.

    Colorado Springs and Interurban Railway ridership peaked in 1911 and within three years it began to suffer financially as automobile ownership increased. By 1916, its offices were located at 530 South Tejon. At that time there were separate cars that ran from the Main Post Office and Federal Courthouse to the Printer's Home. The east/west mainline extended from Manitou's Iron Springs neighborhood eastward through Garden of the Gods Balanced Rock Station in 1916. In 1916, the system had a power house building at 205 Rio Grande West. It served Colorado Springs, Old Colorado City, Manitou Springs, Ivywild, and Roswell over 38 mile of track with 56 motor cars and 13 trail cars in 1917.

    Over the years, service ran east to the North Colorado Springs suburb and southward from the ATSF/Rock Island railroad bridge through the city to the Ivywild and Broadmoor suburbs, where the Cheyenne Mountain Country Club was along the Cheyenne Canon street car line and the terminus[d] It also ran to Broadmoor Park and adjacent to Stratton Park at the entrances to the North and South Cheyenne Canyons. A north/south branch line on Spruce and Walnut streets extended from Yampa street southward to Huerfano Street.

    Buses began replacing the system's rail cars in 1931 and the last electric tram ran on April 30, 1932. In the mid 1930s, the Works Progress Administration removed most of the street car rails. The Colorado Springs & Interurban power house site at the northwest corner of South Sierra Madro and Las Animas streets remains an electrical power station (now of Colorado Springs Utilities).

Historic property

    Winfield Scott Stratton ordered streetcars for the Colorado Springs & Suburban Railway in 1901. It was the first set of cars purchased by Stratton and they were outfitted with safety features, like the retractable Narragansett steps, retractable windows that could be adjusted in transit, and had separate non-smoking and smoking sections. It was a step in the transition from wood to steel framed cars and used the Brill convertible design. Colorado Springs & Interurban Railway (CS&IR) Streetcar No. 48, the only remaining streetcar from that order, is listed on the Colorado State Register of Historic Properties.

The Pikes Peak Historical Foundation

    The Pikes Peak Historical Foundation (PPHSRF) formed in 1983, with publication of Pikes Peak Trolleys by Morris Cafky and John H. Haney to preserve the history of the street railways in the Colorado Springs area. In 1990, Mr. Rex Dodson donated Colorado Springs & Interurban Railway (CSIR) No..59, our first streetcar. In 1994, we moved into the former Chicago, Rock Island, and Pacific roundhouse built in 1888. When Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority (SEPTA) PCC cars became available plus Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) Clark B3 trucks to convert the Pennsylvania gauge cars to standard gauge our mission expanded to build a streetcar line from downtown Colorado Springs to Manitou Springs. The voters approved a charter to build the line and funds were raised for a feasibility study.

    We leased former Ft Collins Municipal Railways (FtCMR) No. 22 and former Los Angeles Railways No. 3101 from the Rocky Mountain Railroad Club adding to our fleet. IBEW Local No. 113 and the Electrical Contractors Association donated $50,000 for restoration of the Birney. Negotiations with the City resulted in the new Colorado Avenue bridge being built to accommodate up to a 100,000 pound rail vehicles with lamp posts capable of supporting a catenary. The Manitou line reached the actual engineering work.

    Everything had moved forward until a combination of items halted the effort. The proposed line on Colorado Avenue went under I-25. When rebuilding I-25 in the area commenced Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) understandably did not want a 600 volt trolley wire in their construction site. Underground power and communication vaults were also in the way of one of the tracks. Then came a push for us to replace the old sewer line under Colorado Avenue. Potential donors were not going to contribute to that work.

    Looking for alternatives a transit engineering firm offered pro bono to help us construct a demonstration line along I-25. That effort halted when the Union Pacific announced that not even the Regional Transportation District (RTD) in the Denver area would be permitted to build near the railroad right-of-way in the future. Our current site surrounded by railroad right-of-way precluded being able to build out to the city streets.

    Meanwhile acceptance of streetcars returning to U.S. cities increased. A number of lines proved the benefits to restoring the economic viability of areas. In 2007, the business community expressed interest in a line in downtown Colorado Springs. A group formed in Colorado Springs.

    With the local city bus transit system and the business community to commission a feasibility study for a, line in the downtown area. Using a combination of grants and contributions the study recommended such a like of about two miles length in 2010.

    Our participation remained on the sidelines due to fear from some that our active participation would jeopardize getting Federal funding. The Feasibility Study recommended building a two mile line in downtown. The funds they hoped for the Environmental Impact Study, Alternatives Analysis, and other studies required by the Federal Transportation Administration (FTA) did not happen. Even had those studies occurred the FTA for such projects required a 50% matching funds, not likely in Colorado Springs given other more urgent needs.

    Meanwhile we managed to get Colorado Avenue and Nevada Avenue bridges rebuilt to accommodate rail vehicles, acquired over $4M worth of assets in the form of parts and restorable streetcars, and continued our restoration efforts on two cars. Work continued on restoring the Birney, CSIR No. 135/FtCMR No. 22, now on the National Historic Register as the last Birney car to operate in revenue service in North America. Restoration started on CSIR No. 59, our Laclede built for Colorado Springs. We managed to acquire CSIR No. 48, the oldest Colorado Springs car and originally a Brill No. 1 convertible, perhaps the only one left.

    Our efforts for the streetcar line center moved to acquiring a property giving us access to the city streets without crossing any active rail line. Encountering various roadblocks the effort moved from one property to another. Typical for such projects. Two years were spent on a former rail yard when the railroad decided to retain the property. We switched to another property and that effort seems to be moving forward. Having been advised any Federal funding would raise costs by approximately 600% and the local economy our effort will be driven by private funding.

    We now have the Colorado Avenue bridge and the North Nevada Avenue bridge over the former Rock Island track able to handle rail vehicles. Our assets exceed $.2M in value in the form of restorable streetcars, streetcar parts, and over two (2) track miles of 90 lb rail for our yards. Our staff includes people with experience in transit and rail operations, engineering, and business. A long hard effort may appears closer than ever to achieving restoration of street rail service to Colorado Springs using heritage and historic equipment.

The Fleet CSIR No. 135/FtCMR No. 22 The Birney

    Of over 6,000 Birney cars built, fewer than 100 are known to survive, less than thirty with their original mechanical equipment, electric equipment, and seats. FtCMR No. 22 came to us essential complete except for damaged wood like the floor and roof. Since the last CSIR Birney was number 134 in accordance with standard railroad practice when acquiring equipment from another line we renumbered the car as CSIR No. 135. It's Fort Collins history should not be forgotten though as the then small college town was the last to operate streetcars in Colorado and the last Birney cars in North America. CSIR No. 135 is the last streetcar to operate in revenue service in Colorado and the last Birney car to operate in North America when it came in from its last run 1045 PM June 30, 1955. Charlie O'Laughlin was the operator. CSIR No. 135/FtCMR No. 22 is now on the National Historic Register.

LARy No. 3101 PCC

    LaRY (Los Angeles Railways) No. 3101, our only narrow gauge streetcar with original trucks, operated in LA from 1943 until 1963. Built in 1943, the car is one of only three surviving passenger rail vehicles from that year. During World War II the War Production Board (WPB) ordered passenger rail equipment could only be built for the military. The City of Los Angeles received an exemption due to a need to transport people to support the war effort.

    The car reportedly operated on a very short track in Cripple Creek Colorado for maybe a month. Although not exactly revenue operation that makes it the first PCC to operate in this state.

Allegheny Port Authority No. 4002 Interurban Car

    Originally built by St. Louis Car Company as Pittsburgh No. 1702, a PCC. In the late 1980s the car received extensive rebuilding.

    Although it retained the original Westinghouse controls and body bolsters the car received a new operators control panel, air conditioning, and essentially a new body.

    Currently the car rests on shop trucks, a pair of wide gauge Clark B2's minus their electrical components. We have one spare pair of CTA B3 trucks to assign to the car but need the funds to rebuild those trucks, acquire a trolley base with pole, windows, air conditioning (necessitated by no operable windows), and some minor items to return the car to fully operational status.

    Dr. Stephen Kuznetsov, who designed traction motors for Westinghouse, purchased the car when it left service. In 2014, he very generously donated this car to us in 2014. One of our Board members donated the shipping costs.

Denver Tramway Corporation Electric Trolley Bus No. 519

    Built by the J.G. Brill Company in 1940 as a 44-seat rubber-tired trolley coach with Westinghouse controls. The coach operated from 1940 until 1955. James Kunkle restored the coach. The roof and some seat cushions require repair due to animal damage while the car was in storage in Denver.

Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) PCC

1. SEPTA No. 2043
2. SEPTA No. 2097
3. SEPTA No. 2102
4. SEPTA No. 2107
5. SEPTA No. 2109
6. SEPTA No. 2114
7. SEPTA No. 2129
8. SEPTA No. 2131
9. SEPTA No. 2722

    Built by St. Louis Car Company in 1947, these cars operated with Clark B2 trucks in Pennsylvania broad gauge. At the same time they became available we were able to acquire St. Louis Car Company built B3 trucks from Chicago. Built for the "L" line in Chicago they are some of the heaviest duty PCC trucks ever made. Unless some other organization offers to purchase the surplus SEPTA trucks when the rebuilding occurs, they will be stripped of all usable parts and then scrapped.

    SEPTA No. 2129, renumbered as CSIR No. 2129, operates on 500 ft of track on the Chicago type trucks. SEPTA No. 2722 was originally built as a two man car then converted into single man operation.

    We started our visit outside exploring this surprising collection.






The Rock Island roundhouse on right.


SEPTA PCC , an ex 1947 Philadelphia Transportation Co PCC car. SEPTA #2129, renumbered as CSIR # 2129, operates on 500ft of track on the Chicago type trucks.


Inside #2129 with dead man pedal on left, brake in middle and power on right.


I remember these paper transfers from not so long ago.


This is not the money side of 2129.




Los Angeles Railway PCC car 3101, operated in LA from 1943 until 1963. Built in 1943, the car is one of only three surviving passenger rail vehicles from that year.

We then went inside the roundhouse to see what was held in there.


Fort Collins Birney Car 22.


Colorado Springs & Interurban Railway # 135.



1901 Laclede 59, which is the only 1901 double truck Laclede in existence.



Inside the #135.

We left the roundhouse and went next door to the Rock Island Railroad Museum.





This is coffee table with a model train under glass. How sweet.



Leaving the Museum, we took one more look around the outside before we left.





Saw more wind turbines on the way to our next stop at Walsenburg where we made a pit stop at the local A&W and we had root beers and root beer floats or brown cows. We then drove to the train station.


The Walsenburg D&RGW station.



D&RGW caboose 01441.


We drove next to La Veta and here we got a surprise!


A San Luis & Rio Grande freight train was idling here.


SL&RG GP-40PH2 4136.


SL&RG GP-40PH2 4142.


SL&RG GP-40PH2 4141.


From here we then drove to the station.


D&RGW La Veta station.



View from station of the idling train.


And the water tower here. Then from here we headed back towards US 160 but made a stop.


The dike on West Spanish Peak.


We then drove to Blanca for some ghost railroading of what is left of the San Luis Southern Railroad.


The remains of Plymouth ML8, ex Utah Power and Light, bought in 1977.




San Luis Southern D-500.




Next is was a pit stop for fuel for the car and some for our bodies and then on to Alamosa.


Alamosa depot.


Old Amtrak cars in storage.


The Rio Grande Scenic Railroad departing the depot. They run excursions on the LaVeta Pass Route to La Veta.


From here we explored the rail yard to find treasures.







Now it was dinner time, so we headed for the fast food to-go places i.e. KFC with me taking mine back to the Rodeway Inn to eat and do laundry.

Tomorrow, Chris G. and I will make a return visit to Antonito, (Chapter Five), and it will be the first for Elizabeth and Chris P. We will be riding the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad from Antonito 64 miles to Chama. Elizabeth is looking forward and excited to ride behind a antique steam engine.

Thanks for reading.

Next: Riding on the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad.

Return to last chapter Fifteen ***

Return to Table of Contents

Return to Home Page

Text and Photos by Author

The author retains all rights. No reproductions are allowed without the author's consent.

Comments appreciated at ....